Admittedly, I’d have spent most of my adult life laughing if you told me that I’d be interested in getting behind the wheel of KIA. With all due respect, the relative modesty of the KIA aesthetic combined with the reserved performance numbers were enough to nix it from even my long-list of vehicles that I’d consider. Simply put, and in no uncertain terms, KIA just wasn’t my cup of tea.
Fast-forward to the close of 2016 when a buzz began to circulate over KIA’s plans to announce a powered-up luxury inspired performance Gran Turismo, and I could feel my ‘muscle car sense’ tingling. Now, I’m not sure if that’s actually a thing, but it certainly came as a surprise. And while I never expected the uncompromising badassery of a Dodge, or the overall refinement of a Jaguar, KIA had managed to accomplish something which they had previously been incapable of: they had captured my attention (along with countless others).
The result, of course, would be the 2018 KIA Stinger, first unveiled here:
It would then be introduced to the general popular, with notable flair, in this memorable Super Bowl ad featuring Steven Tyler of Aerosmith:
With 255 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque, the Stinger (even in its base form) presented itself as a confident performer while retaining some of the modesty most-commonly associated with KIA. Factor in the option of a 3.3-liter Twin Turbo V6 capable of 365 hp and 376 lb-ft, and it was clear that KIA was prepared to throw their proverbial hat in the ring of performance offerings.
But once ‘in the ring’, how does the Stinger measure up against some of the other offerings that have owned the segment to-date? Sure the base 2.0-liter is priced affordably to start around $31,900 MSRP, but an all-in 3.3-liter GT can easily hit the $50,000 mark. And with accessibly-priced Chargers and Challengers being overshadowed by the likes of Hellcats and Demons, the high-profile Stinger finds itself (surprisingly) positioned against the likes of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Jaguar XE, BMW 4 Series and the Audi A5 series.
As of August, KIA has broken the 10,000 unit mark in the U.S. alone. Besting Jaguar by 4x the units sold year-to-date, it still falls in at around half of BMW and Audi’s numbers, in terms of the models listed above. And it barely hits the 33% mark of Mercedes segment-topping numbers.
But it’s hard to argue the appeal of the Stinger’s bold styling, and the fact that the KIA badging on such a ballsy vehicle proves intriguing, to say the least. At the end of the day, KIA’s gamble seems to have paid off. The Stinger is confidently holding it own in a newly-reinvigorated segment, and it’ll be fascinating to see where that accomplishment leads KIA from here.